Tuesday, April 8

A Few Things About Charlie Lindbergh

Lindbergh's triumphant return
By Grant Davies

It was eighty-seven years ago this coming summer -that's 1927 for those who jot down such things - that a fellow named Charles Lindbergh beat the odds by avoiding getting lost at sea. It was no small feat since almost everyone who previously tried what he was trying had not beaten the odds.

What Charles was trying to do was cross the ocean without the benefit of a boat. Instead, he carefully made his calculations and hopped aboard a flimsy airplane named the Spirit of St Louis and took off for Paris. That he made it was remarkable.

But this story isn't about how he made it to Europe without ending up in the drink. It's mostly about how he got home again without suffering that fate after taking a safer mode of travel on a ship named the USS Memphis.

It seems that Lindbergh decided to take a walk around the ship after supper one evening. It was an ill-advised notion because the seas were higher than the passengers at the bar that night. As he reached the bow, a series of large waves washed over the deck and he was one lucky Lindbergh not to get washed away himself. Only the presence of a handy lifeline saved him from what should have been his fate on the outward leg of the round trip. He hung on for dear life for about ten minutes before things settled down long enough for him to walk calmly, though briskly, to a safer spot. He later commented, "It was an exciting experience."

For the normally stoical Charles, that was about as emotional as he ever became. It was likely in his genes to be so dispassionate. His upbringing occurred in a home where demonstrative affection was totally absent. No hugging or kissing for the Lindberghs. In fact, when Charles (never Charlie or any other affectionate nickname) went to bed each night, instead of hugging his mother, they shook hands. That kind of warmth just melts the heart.

In the end, Charles returned home as a hero to everyone. Of course, that was before the public's love affair with him ended some years later after he made his Antisemitism known. He revealed it during a well attended speech in Des Moines, Iowa in September 1941. The timing couldn't have been worse. It was just as America was about to go war against some antisemitic folks in Germany.

He went on to father thirteen children, including six with his wife Ann Morrow Lindbergh. His first born was a son who was kidnapped and murdered in one of the most sensational crimes of the time. The rest of his seven children were the result of long term affairs he carried on with three women in Europe (two of them sisters) starting in 1957 and not ending until shortly before his death in 1974.

It's not known if he ever hugged or kissed any them, nor if any of them considered him as much of a hero as the adoring throngs who greeted him when he first returned to America in 1927.

Source information for this post was taken from the excellent book "One Summer" by Bill Bryson.

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